Previous ArticlesA shooting guard is back in the UC
Bulls and Rose dunk the Pistons
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 11
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
It’s difficult to explain Derrick Rose. Which is a good thing, because there’s really never been a basketball player like him. And it was manifest Monday in the United Center during the Bulls 95-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Ronnie Brewer, the hustling guard, was trying to explain. And he was a good one given he delivered the pass of the season, a high arcing lob that Rose caught one handed at the top of the box above the rim, Rose soaring like a jet that you could almost see the contrails, and slammed it through for the beginning of the sonic burst that carried the Bulls to victory.
Brewer said he recalled sitting in a restaurant watching Rose’s towering dunk in Phoenix last year, which Brewer called the best dunk of the season. So he said he knew he could throw the ball higher than he thought possible for anyone to get it.
Rose said he thought Brewer might throw it sooner, so he thought he was coming down some when the ball reached him.
Don’t hit your head on the arena ceiling.
“He’s hard to compare,” said Brewer, who has a weighty NBA stature as his father played in the league most of the ’80s. “He’s athletic like an athletic two (like Dwyane Wade), but he’s faster than any point guard in the league. His ability to handle the ball is bar none. His decision making is comparable to Deron Wiliams or Chris Paul. His quickness is maybe Monta Ellis. His athleticism is unlike any guard, so it’s difficult to compare his game.”
That’s right, folks, sit back and watch and enjoy because there’s really been nothing like this guy, not as a point guard in the NBA, anyway.
Jordan didn’t jump like this. No, I’m not saying he’s another Michael Jordan. Rose isn’t as angrily explosive to the basket and can’t quite hang like that. Plus, you gotta have the tongue. But we’ve never seen anyone at that position, point guard, who can get off the floor like that, beat double teams and finish, take over games as Rose has routinely.
This is special stuff we’ll be talking about for years, especially if the Bulls improve their team and become a serious playoff contender. The Detroit guys courtside with me wondered if Rose were better than Isiah Thomas. Not yet, but closing, and way more athletic.
If he wanted to with better perimeter shooting around him, I believe Rose could join Tiny Archibald as the only players to lead the league in scoring and assists. Rose now is in the top 10 in both categories.
“I just went up and got it,” Rose said of the spectacular fourth quarter dunk that preceded an 11-3 Bulls run that finished the Pistons for the night. “Ronny threw it up. Simple one hand dunk. I don’t know how I caught it. I was just in the moment.”
That moment frozen in time for anyone who witnessed it was the final impetus to take the Bulls to 25-12 as Rose finished with 29 points and seven assists. The Bulls have now won 16 of their last 20. Carlos Boozer added 27 points and 11 rebounds, and the Bulls recovered from an inefficient first half defensive effort when they trailed 55-43 at halftime to pitch the NBA version of a shutout, holding the Pistons to 27 second half points.
“We finally played defense,” said Rose. “In the first half, they were getting everything they wanted driving to the hole, getting to the line. We were following them. In the second half, we just made sure we got in their way. When we were being aggressive and pressing them up and down the court. We were also rebounding the ball and that was huge.”
It wasn’t an artful effort as much as it was willful. The Bulls were badly outplayed in the first half, crushed on the boards by the poorest rebounding team in the league, allowing 50 percent shooting for the 22nd ranked shooting team and watching Austin Daye throw in 14 points.
And watching was a good description as even after Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau exploded for a late second quarter timeout after another Daye jumper and Rose slammed the ball down in disgust, Daye closed the half coming out of a timeout wide open for a three.
“The first quarter was just as bad as the second quarter,” noticed Thibodeau.
Rose said Thibodeau did some cursing at halftime, though some of the adjustments were somewhat more effective.
Brewer had relieved Keith Bogans on Tracy McGrady, who had nine points in the first half, and neither was faring particularly well on the aging but slick shooting former star. But both Bogans first for most of the third quarter and then Brewer later, more against McGrady, increased their pressure and those easy jumpers became more difficult.
The guards began picking up the Pistons guards sooner over halfcourt, and Brewer, particularly, did a good job on McGrady’s pump fakes, staying down and staying up on his body more.
“I wanted to make him feel me, to put pressure on him,” said Brewer, who had 11 points, including a three, and six assists. “Make him turn as he was bringing the ball up, make it more difficult for him to initiate the offense.”
And providing a strong effort on defense, particularly after halftime, was the much maligned Bogans, who did most of the work in holding Ben Gordon to five points on two of 10 shooting.
Bogans had a longer than usual run in the third quarter, playing just over nine minutes as the Bulls made up most of a 12-point halftime deficit while he was on the floor.
“Ben is a great player, but you can’t let him get into his rhythm where he is dancing around with the ball,” said Bogans. “We have our help principles, but when he has the ball you have to get up into him. If you allow him to stand back and dribble and pull up and shoot it, you’ll have a long night. I just tried to stay into his body and not give him that air space.”
And from there Rose closed it out, scoring 11 of the Bulls last 15 points of the third quarter on several incredible drives, splitting double teams and blowing by helpless defenders at the rim, and then electrifying the sellout crowd with that spectacular lob slam dunk that seemed to stun the Pistons as well. They missed 10 of their next 12 shots before a Tayshaun Prince dunk brought them within 91-80 with two minutes left.
“That was the play of the night for us,” Boozer said of Rose’s dunk which had the bench leaping in support. “We all got excited. Awesome. The play of the night right there.”
Sorry, game over.
“We just missed some shots,” said Prince, a prime culprit at six of 17. “Once we missed some shots, it affects us on the defensive end.”
The Pistons fell to 12-25 in Gordon’s nightmare season as he had those five points and played two minutes in the fourth quarter. Prince took almost double the shots of everyone else, mostly one-on-one heaves as he’s in the final season of his contract and moving on. Richard Hamilton, who is expected to move on soon, was an indifferent zero for five and two points in 22 minutes as last man off the bench.
Their young players, Daye and Greg Monroe, played reasonably well early, and old Ben Wallace got hurt on the first play of the game and didn’t return. New ownership is expected soon, and the Bulls did benefit some with short minutes for Charlie Villanueva, whose size in matchups was giving the Bulls trouble on the boards in the first half along with McGrady in the backcourt and Chris Wilcox.
Though the Bulls pressure after halftime made those shots more difficult, the Bulls got on the boards, and Rose took flight.
The Bulls are making a last week push for Rose to be an East starting guard in the All-Star game with a special All-Star voting promotion at Saturday’s Miami game. Arena voting ends next Monday and on line voting ends Jan. 23. Fans can vote at Bulls.com/votebulls and texting Rose to 6-9-6-2-2 on mobile phones. Rose said he’d just be thrilled to be included, but it would almost be a shame not to see him start.
He may be one of the top three or four players you’d most want to watch.
What’s your list?
After all, an All-Star game is a show more than a game. And you should have the game’s top talent who also can put on a show. Who do you watch in the NBA who makes you go, “Wow!”
Probably rookie Blake Griffin, amazingly enough. Dwyane Wade? LeBron James? There really aren’t too many more who combined the athletic ability required for an All-Star party and skill to make it a competitive game. Amar’e? Maybe. Probably not Kobe as much anymore with his game being more grounded. Dwight Howard’s just a dunker, primarily. Deron Williams and Chris Paul are terrific, but not spectacular as they do it. Kevin Durant’s mostly a great shooter. Of the five guys you’d most like to see make plays in an All-Star game, Rose has to be among them now.
He makes you exclaim, “Oh my!” at least three times a game these days, and perhaps double that Monday.
He started fast with eight in the first quarter and crossed over Rodney Stuckey and finished with a reverse for the Bulls first basket.
The team has been victimized by slow starts lately, mostly because neither Bogans or Kurt Thomas are scorers, and Rose tends to try to get others involved first. So it doesn’t leave many options when Luol Deng isn’t hitting his shots, which he wasn’t to start Monday.
So Rose and Boozer combined for the first dozen Bulls points. But it was a harbinger of things to come as the Pistons closed the first quarter with three offensive rebounds on one possession leading to a Wilcox tipin and 25-20 lead.
“We have to play better,” said Boozer. “This was a game we pretty much escaped because we played much better in the second half. We can’t continue to get down early and rely on a capability to come back. We’re still working on trying to be more consistent.”
One thing that would help is getting Kyle Korver more involved. He played just four minutes and was zero for two. The Bulls need to start running more baseline screens for him, the stuff you saw earlier in the season that Reggie Miller and Ray Allen specialize in. But the Bulls are getting Korver the ball on the wing, where it’s less catch and shoot. So he generally has to take a dribble first and he’s not as effective shooting off a dribble and pulling up. The Bulls just don’t have enough scoring, though Deng did come back in the second half to finish with 17 points and eight assists.
But, likewise, Taj Gibson seems to be aiming his shot and was just three of 10 for eight points, though he was good again defensively with a pair of blocks and five rebounds.
The second quarter was a meltdown of sorts for the Bulls with that late expression of Rose’s disgust, though you never see Rose react to any of his great offensive plays. It’s as if he expects those. The guy just cares about winning the game.
It didn’t look like the Bulls would.
Daye and McGrady were hitting and the Bulls were admiring.
Boozer one time stopped and yelled “three seconds” at Wilcox in the lane. There was no call, so Wilcox laid the ball in with no resistance. McGrady got a switch onto Rose and with help coming off Day, Daye hit a three. He was six for six in the quarter and the Bulls kept coming off him to help. Hello!
Rose got himself one of those two handed flushes midway through the second on a pass from Brewer, another ho hum.
“I just jump high,” said Rose. “I don’t try to be creative. I just try to cock the ball back to make sure people don’t hit the ball. I guess people like that.
“I don’t really watch (his great plays),” said Rose. “I’ll go home (after the game), eat something, watch TV. The guys probably will have it on in the practice facility (Tuesday). I’ll probably see it then. I don’t want to get caught up in that.”
Really, is this kid for real?
Though Rose watched carefully and didn’t like what he saw in the Pistons shooting 65 percent in the second quarter for that 55-43 lead.
“My mom is always telling me to stop (cursing), people read my lips,” said Rose with a shy laugh. “It’s basketball. You can’t stop yourself from yelling or getting mad.”
Assuming you care that much, of course.
So why not when he does something spectacular on offense?
“I’m too caught up in the moment,” says Rose. “If I score or do a play, I want to do it again, trying to be aggressive to put pressure on people. You get some reaction (from me) after I do a stupid thing.”
Rose said he doesn’t much hear the fans’ reactions during the game nor, of course, the infectious exultations and hosannas of TV broadcaster Stacey King.
“My mom tells me,” said Rose. “I see signs that say stuff about Stacey, but I don’t know what they mean.”
It’s just a wonderland out there.
And it was a wonderful game changing third quarter for the Bulls, the defense closing and the Bulls serving up a plateful of efficiency with 72 percent accuracy and a rose colored close to the quarter.
There was Bogans tipping out a Deng block of a Wilcox shot and Rose exploding out for a slam. That came after a terrific Deng sequence in which he committed a turnover, but hustled back to get the block that started the fast break.
The Pistons began trapping Rose higher, but Rose just split the doubles one after another, first McGrady and Wilcox and scoring, then Stuckey and Wilcox and scoring for a three point play (Rose got nine more free throw attempt and made them all) and blowing past Wilcox and Gordon and being fouled.
That 13-2 run to close the quarter gave the Bulls a 76-70 lead after three, and Thibodeau would uncharacteristically keep Rose in the game to open the fourth along with Deng and they both played the entire quarter. The Pistons got within 78-75, but Rose scored on a floater, Deng rebounded a Gibson block and hit Brewer for a layup and Rose attacked the basket for two more free throws and the end was near for the Pistons.
“I’m throwing myself into people,” said Rose. “It hurts. That’s why I’m in the weight room a lot. But I recover fast.”
Though not so much the opponents as Rose continues to lift a team.